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Jump Out the Fidgets: Why Exercise is So Important for Kids

Active play and exercise is extremely important for children’s’ development a well as their future health. When kids get enough exercise they improve the development of healthy bones and muscles, are more likely to sleep well, and have positive mental health outcomes such as good social skills and a happier nature.

But a host of factors are currently standing in the way of kids getting the right amount of physical activity that they need each day. These include long working hours o parents, the popularity of TV and video games as entertainment, and the increased concern about kids’ safety leading to lots of time spent indoors. These reasons – and likely many more – can make it quite difficult for children to get the minimum amount of exercise they need in order to be healthy.

How much physical activity should kids be doing?

It’s recommended that kids and teenagers get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. In NSW, however, only about 25% of children between the ages of 5-15 get this amount of physical activity in their day. It may be a big lifestyle overhaul for you and your family to help the kids get the exercise they need, but it is worth it.
Here are some of the most important reasons why kids need to exercise, and why you should be ensuring that they do:

  1. For the first time ever, it looks as though children will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Children are increasingly developing diseases that were once thought to only affect adults. These illnesses include type 2 diabetes (previously known as adult onset diabetes) and fatty liver disease. Exercise and a diet free from processed foods and sugars is essential to curbing this alarming trend.
  2. It has been shown that physical activity can help kids with their experience at school. Not only do school exercise programs encourage better attendance, but they can also enhance academic performance at the same time.
  3. Kids who exercise are more easily able to sleep. It makes sense – if you use your body it needs to rest! Not only does exercise make it easier to get to sleep, but it also improves both the quantity and quality of sleep as well.
  4. Setting children up with healthy exercise and diet habits means they are more likely to maintain them in adulthood. Not only this, but good exercise habits are protective against diseases like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.
  5. Exercise ensures that kids and teens get the best start to life possible, and this isn’t just for physical reasons. Regular physical activity in children and adolescents is essential to developing and perfecting fine and gross motor skills. These affect your child’s confidence and ability to socialise.

How to encourage your kids to exercise

  • Make exercise fun –  Team sports with friends, trampolining, game playing – all of these are a lot more enjoyable than running laps! If it’s a pleasant activity, chances are that kids will want to do it rather than it feeling like a chore. Find something your child love – it could be dance, martial arts, yoga, skating, surfing, or a team sport.
  • Limit sedentary activitiesA study by the Kaiser Foundation found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 watch about 4.5 hours of television a day, and spend about 7.5 hours in total in front of a screen. If kids can only access these media for certain times a day, they have more time to be out playing.
  • Establish a regular schedule for physical activity – Kids respond well to routine, and if there’s a set time for sports or active play, they’re more likely to stick to it, feel the benefits, and try their best.
  • Practice what you preach – Kids are often skeptical of rules that don’t seem to apply to everyone, so one of the best things you can do to ensure they really give exercise a go is to get involved yourself. Try and get out and about on the weekends with activities like bike rides, bush walks, or playing in the park. It’s your responsibility as a parent to set a good example when it comes to exercise and an active lifestyle.
  • Incorporate exercise into the everyday – If you exercise a little at a time, you can hit that 60 minute mark with ease. Try to walk where possible instead of driving, take the stairs instead of escalators or lifts, and if you take public transport you should always get off a stop early.
  • Have exercise options at home – While adults may respond well to set exercise regimes with X amounts of squats and Y minutes on the treadmill, kids do not. Simply encourage active play and this should be enough to meet your child’s exercise needs. Perhaps a basketball ring or a backyard trampoline will be the best active accessory for your child and your home. Think moving around, climbing, cartwheels, running, and jumping – just get them moving!

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